In the practice of religion, a cult image is a human-made object that is venerated or worshipped for the deity, spirit or daemon that it embodies or represents. Cultus, the outward religious formulas of "cult" (meaning religious practice, as opposed to the pejorative term for a potentially dangerous "new religion"), often centers upon the treatment of cult images, which may be dressed, fed or paraded, etc. Religious images cover a wider range of all types of images made with a religious purpose, subject, or connection. In many contexts "cult image" specifically means the most important image in a temple, kept in an inner space, as opposed to what may be many other images decorating the temple. The term idol is often synonymous with cult image, but may be used especially of a cult image believed not just to depict or represent a deity or spirit, but in some sense to be one itself. Sometimes the image is believed to have its own powers, to grant wishes or otherwise affect the world. In cultures where idolatry is not viewed negatively, the word idol is not generally seen as pejorative, such as in Indian English. A cult of images is the practice of worshipping or venerating religious or cult images representing divine figures. Common in a number of ancient religions, the practice continues most prominently today in Hinduism. The Abrahamic religions all specifically ban idols and idolatry; all have had internal divisions and disputes as to what constitutes the proper or improper use of images in religion, and many Abrahamic religious denominations use or venerate images with varying degrees of fervor.
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